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11 Most Common Lies People Tell to Look Intelligent
written by Sam Greenspan

"Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud." --Sophocles

"Fake it until you make it." -- Modern proverb

I recently found this survey that came up with the top 10 lies people tell to appear intelligent. As known cowards, they only listed the top 10, but through a great deal of perseverance, intuition and fortitude, I was able to ascertain the 11th.

And yes, that sentence reads a bit obnoxious, but "exaggerating how much effort it took to find a sentence in a poorly written British tabloid article" didn't make this list. Here's what did...

  1. This picture summed up my mental image of someone reciting poetry.
    Memorize a poem to recite. I did once memorize a short, hip poem. I never recited it -- I, like all but about 17 people, can't just casually recite a poem without appearing like an awkward, pretentious Blind Date contestant -- but I had it loaded up in case I was ever facing a Poetry Or Die situation. It's called Mating Saliva by Richard Brautigan:
    A girl in a green miniskirt, not very pretty, walks down the street.

    A businessman stops, turns to stare at her ass that looks like a moldy refrigerator.

    There are now 200,000,000 people in America.
    Still kills me every single time. Even if I did originally read it on a girl's MySpace page.

  2. Quick research before dinner parties. I don't think I've ever done this -- unless it counts that I frantically try to research people's names I've forgotten as I'm walking up to the house. Because then, yeah, I do this constantly.

  3. Retweeting news to seem up on current events. This happened a lot in the fallout of the Miley Cyrus VMA thing. The first wave of social media posts was generic mocking/shame; the second wave of social media the next day was some variation on, "I've seen 1,000 posts on Miley Cyrus today and none about Syria." Of course, merely name dropping Syria doesn't count as discussing Syria -- it's just another Miley Cyrus pop culture shout-out wearing in a faux-worldly mask -- but it's a perfect illustration of this list item.

  4. Deriding popular movies while secretly enjoying them. The survey specifically mentioned popular movies but I see this more regarding TV shows. I've had a ton of conversations in the past few weeks about Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black -- which are great -- but I really just want to find someone who can debate America's Got Talent with me.


  5. Bragging about wine knowledge. I tried to do this when I was younger -- "younger" meaning 22, not eight or something -- and just failed miserably at all times. So I stopped completely and now admit my complete dearth of wine knowledge. At this point, I will do whatever it takes not to be the one who tastes the wine at a nice dinner. Partially because I don't know anything about wine, partially because I would never reject a bottle they opened so the task is wasted on me, and partially because the entire process would steal valuable time for me to drop potentially hilarious wordplay where I "confuse" sommelier and Somalian.

  6. Exaggerating job status/role. This one feels like something people do less to make themselves appear intelligent and more to make themselves appear important. Because I'm not sure you're convincing people you're intelligent by telling them you're thinking of jumping into the importing and not just doing the exporting. (Or your job's equivalent.)

  7. Pretending to be fluent in a foreign language. This becomes most apparent on reality shows like The Amazing Race when someone tries to speak in, say, Italian but mostly ends up speaking in broken English grammar and adding the letter "o" to the end of words. "National-o Library-o? National-o Library-o? You take us? Yes? Many lira."


  8. Exaggerating academic achievements. This one's dangerous only because we've seen so many high profile people who exaggerated their academic history so frequently they forgot the truth... put their revised past on their resume... then got busted down to coaching mid-major college football in Orlando. (That's not a metaphor, although it could be.)

    So perhaps it's best not to begin weaving a tangled web by pretending you got a double major in economics and psychology when you really got an associate's degree in bookkeeping and occasionally gave your friends advice on their problems.

  9. Researching famous quotes to drop in conversation. I have never done this.

  10. Wearing glasses, dying your hair brown or wearing something to change your look. Wearing glasses to try to look smart would've worked -- back before thick glasses became a fashion statement. Now, glasses are to intelligence as tattoos are to rebelliousness.

  11. Claiming to have read highbrow books. I once wrote a list on the 11 Books People Claim They've Read, But Haven't. And since then, I've always doubted when people claimed to have read all the highbrow, sophisticated books on the list like... The Da Vinci Code? How DARE you?

This list was originally published on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Personal.
It currently has View Comments.

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